By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
March 30, 2008
Read: John 20:19-31
Today is often referred to as “Doubting Thomas” Sunday. And many of us think, “poor Thomas”. It’s an unfair label to put on him. Except that it is a clear biblical example of the fact that we can doubt, we can question, and Jesus remains by our side wanting us to develop a deeper faith. To believe.
So, why do I, and many others, believe it’s an unfair label for Thomas. Well, look at how our gospel story begins. The disciples are locked away in a house for fear of the Jews. They apparently have some faith issues…remember that just a week ago Mary had come to them and told her story about seeing the risen Lord. And here they are, entombed in a room behind locked doors. Not exactly a picture of spiritual vitality, is it?
And then a remarkable thing happens…Jesus comes to them in the midst of that anxiety, confusion, that vulnerability and says “peace be with you”. What a gift. And it’s important that he says it again. “Peace be with you”
But this time, it comes with a command to leave their fears behind and go back into the world – not with anger or bitterness, or with a need for revenge, but with PEACE. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
In this remarkable moment, Jesus transforms his disciples into apostles. He blesses them with vision. Not just the ability to see his hands and side, but the ability to see the world “out there”, beyond the locked doors, differently. They now possess a gift, a truth, far greater than their fears: life and love are stronger than death, hope is stronger than despair, and grace is stronger than sin.
When Thomas returns to the house, he is greeted with unbelievable news. He had missed the fireworks display a week earlier. Think about that though. Thomas missed it. Haven’t we all been in the place where everyone else seemed to know/expereince something and we were on the outside. It’s like missing the family reunion where Grandma rode the four wheeler and for every get together after that everyone else can play “remember when” but you can’t join in.
For a week, Thomas couldn’t join in the joy. He may not have doubted as much as he just wanted what everyone else received. Then, the risen Christ reappeared to Thomas and his friends and again offered them his peace. This was the third time Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Thomas then saw Jesus’ hands and side, too, but he responded with an even greater vision: “My Lord and my God!”
It’s a vision that continues to inspire God’s people. It’s a vision that compels us to look beyond what is, to what can yet be. That IS the Holy Spirit at work, prodding our imaginations to believe in something we can’t yet see with our eyes. The resurrected Christ unlocks the door and ushers us into the world with a vision and a message no one else can claim.
Jesus blessed them, Jesus blessed us with vision. The ability to see the world “out there” differently. They, and we, now possess a gift, a truth, far greater than our fears: life and love are stronger than death, hope is stronger than despair, and grace is stronger than sin.
The peace of Christ that we long and hope for, already is. It opens the doors of the church. It opens the doors so that the people of God can stream out and boldly announce to the troubled world that there is peace, that Christ is risen, and that we can live with hope. That’ our message to those who are at odds with God and with each other. Life and love are stronger than death, hope is stronger than despair, and grace is stronger than sin. The Lord is Risen! Amen.
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I have been blessed with the honor of teaching 2-3 and 4 Year Old Sunday School Class at Old St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (Est. 1706) in Charleston, SC. Our Lesson Sunday 4/11 is "Doubting Thomas," and I decided to put together a puppet show for this lesson. While developing the "script," I searched several resources which addressed the "Jesus-Thomas moment," and "Believing without Seeing," however, I wanted something more, something that would truly demonstrate the awesome and everlasting "gift" received by everyone through this encounter. Thomas' doubts and the courage to expess them, endeared him to Christ, and indeed left a far "greater vision."
God has truly spoken through you.
Thank you so very very much.
PS May I call you for input from time to time? My Sunday School Class is not a "play time." It is definitely "Faith Formation," with
lesson plans and age appropriate related fun activities.